Influenza, or flu, is not just your common cold which can be cured with chicken soup. It is caused by viruses that not only affects humans, but also birds and mammals.
The Influenza A virus is normally found in wild aquatic birds, which are their natural hosts. That is why this particular type of flu is also called bird flu or avian flu. It is the most infectious human virus among the three types (Influenza A; B that is found in ferrets and seals; and C that is found in dogs, pigs, and humans) and can cause the most serious illness. The Influenza A is the reason for the following notorious epidemics:
- The Spanish Flu in 1918 and Swine Flu in 2009 (caused by the Influenza A subtype, H1N1)
- The Asian Flu in 1957 (caused by H2N2)
- The Hong Kong Flu in 1968 (caused by H3N2)
- The Bird Flu in 2004 (caused by H5N1)
Knowing When You Have Influenza A
Influenza A symptoms may make the infected person stay in bed for several days because of fever with chills, and accompanied by body pain (mostly at the back and at the joints). Below are other indications of the infection:
- Dry and unproductive coughing and nasal congestion
- Watery eyes with irritation
- Redness of the eyes, mouth, throat, skin (especially the face)
Common colds and Influenza A symptoms are hard to differentiate at the early stage of the infection. However, influenza is identified by a sudden onset of high grade fever accompanied by fatigue, which the common cold does not have. Furthermore, the symptoms above are also common in other forms of influenza, although Conjunctivitis (the redness of the eyes, also called “pink eye”) is more commonly present in Influenza A than in the other types.
Getting the Virus
Bird flu can be transmitted in three main ways. These are:
- Direct Transmission is when an infected individual sneezes and the droplets goes directly to the mouth, eyes or nose of another person
- Airborne Route is when others would inhale the droplets from the air, coming from an infected person
- Touching contaminated surfaces and then contaminating self by hand-to-nose, hand-to-mouth or hand-to-eye movements
Prevention and Treatment
Just keep clean. Always make sure to wash your hands. Vaccines are also available as a way of preventing the virus from infecting people. It is reformulated each season for specific flu strains, but will not include all the strains infecting humans. However, people can still get infected after getting the flu shot because it takes two weeks before the vaccine takes effect.
Treatment for the virus can be as simple as getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of liquids. You may also be prescribed to take analgesic drugs for the fever and the pain. For severe cases, however, antiviral drugs are available in at pharmacy.
Remember that prevention is better than cure, but just in case Influenza A symptoms occur, go to your doctor and have yourself checked to better assess the severity of your condition.
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